Changes in the brain that cause dementia can begin many years, even decades, before dementia is diagnosed. It’s useful to have indicators that predict future dementia so preparations can be made.
This large study shows that a combination of slower walking speed and loss of cognitive function together predict future dementia more than either separately.
**Walking Speed Helps Predict Future Dementia**
**— Dual decline in gait speed and cognition tied to higher dementia risk**
**by Judy George, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today June 1, 2022**
**A combined drop in both walking speed and cognitive function was tied to an increased risk of dementia, a study of nearly 17,000 older adults showed.**
**Dual decline in gait speed and cognition carried a higher risk of dementia than either gait-only decline or cognitive-only decline. Dementia risk was highest in people who had slower gait speeds coupled with lower memory scores over time...**
**Compared with non-decliners, dementia incidence was highest in people who had declines in both gait and memory (HR 24.7), followed by gait and global cognition (HR 22.2), gait and verbal fluency (HR 4.7), and gait and processing speed (HR 4.3)....** [end quote]
What struck me was the extremely high Hazard Ratio (HR) which jumps up and bites you on the nose. It isn’t a subtle difference. People who have slower gait and poorer memory together are 25 times more likely to progress to dementia than normal controls.
The walking test is only 3 meters so it should be fast and easy for a doctor to perform. I can see that walking speed could be slower due to physical problems like knee arthritis or my ankle problem (Posterior Tibial Tendon Disorder) that slows people down, but a little common sense should prevail here. Barring specific physical problems, a recent exploratory study suggested Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease have unique signatures of gait impairment that may reflect underlying pathology.
Until doctors become aware of this and start testing routinely, we should be alert to ourselves and our loved ones. Slower gait plus memory problems together are an early warning sign.